Tamber's Restaurant Nifty Fifties is a keen place to dine

MATTERS OF TASTE

May 16, 1991|By Mary Maushard

Although I did my share of eating in the 1950s, most of it was at my family's table. I didn't see the inside of a diner until late in the '70s.

So my recent visit to Tamber's Nifty Fifties Dining did not evoke fond memories of a similar place, although some of the food was reminiscent of what I ate at home way back then.

There was meatloaf, for instance, and macaroni & cheese and chicken pot pie. There was, thank goodness, no creamed chipped beef -- the meal my mother always prepared when she was going out -- or tuna-noodle casserole. Perhaps those are better forgotten, even amid the strange nostalgia that is making '50s food fashionable.

Tamber's eclectic menu seems to be a blend of someone's '50s favorites and '80s in-food. The menu includes shrimp salad on cheese toast ($5.75), cream cheese on date and nut bread ($4.75), home-style meatloaf with mashed potatoes or French fries and gravy ($5.95) alongside Buffalo wings ($4.95), potato skins ($3.25), submarines and two flavors of low-fat frozen yogurt. I doubt there was even one '50s foodie who envisioned frozen yogurt -- or how ubiquitous it would become.

Also on Tamber's menu are grilled boneless chicken breast ($8.95), fried shrimp ($8.95) and cod fish cakes ($8.95), each served with two vegetables from a list of at least eight.

This blend of foods from today and those from a little while back makes Tamber's a good place to dine with children. Adults can go back a few years and the youngsters can stay current -- or vice versa. And adults can enjoy a full meal while their youngsters go for less.

Tamber's, which opened last winter, is on the corner of 34th and St. Paul streets in Charles Village. It is a bright spot, with booths along the windows, a few small tables and a soda fountain with such throw-back trappings as pedestal cake plates with see-through covers.

The prominent juke box flashes with color as it spews out tunes from three and four decades ago, and you can see yourself in the ceiling, which resembles chrome car bumpers without the corners.

My children, products of the '80s, liked it here.

We went to Tamber's early on a weeknight. There was no crowd and we chose a booth with ample views of the street and the fountain.

My 7-year-old daughter wanted a hamburger, which made up the 2-year-old's mind too. Our thoughtful waitress suggested that one would be enough for two small appetites, and it was. The large burger ($4.95) was thick and quite good; it was served with fries.

Our drinks -- two milks and a soda -- were served in brightly colored tumblers that pleased my children, too. Choosing their favorite color was quite a decision.

I settled on chicken pot pie ($5.95), one of the ''blue plate specials.'' The pot pie was served in a large, shallow blue -- what else? -- bowl; the golden crust was flaky and the filling quite tasty. Large pieces of white meat languished in a broth rich with potatoes, celery, peas and carrots.

We shared a side order of macaroni & cheese ($1.75). Its orange cast put me off a bit, but the flavor was true.

We saved room for dessert. I passed up the urge to order ice cream sodas -- my absolute childhood favorite -- all around. We chose instead -- it is the '90s, you know -- a dish of vanilla yogurt ($1.45), a dish of chocolate ice cream ($1.10) and bread pudding ($2.75). The pudding, laced with blueberries and topped with a lovely lemon sauce, was a treat. The 'bread' tasted more like squares of pound cake than the day-old cubes the cooks of the '50s used. I consider it an improvement.

The ice cream and yogurt disappeared quickly.

I wish the same could have been said of several waiters, who, with little to do, hung out around the soda fountain, staring either at us or into space. Whichever it was, it made me uncomfortable.

With such help to spare, it seemed odd that I had to ask for -- and then wait for -- a second cup of coffee from our otherwise attentive waitress.

Our bill was $21.63, a lot more than it would have been in the '50s, no doubt, but not bad for decent food and a side order of nostalgia.

** 1/2 Tamber's Restaurant

3327 St. Paul St.

243-0383

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. (high chairs and booster seats available for youngsters).

Reservations: None accepted.

Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.

Handicapped access: Accessible.

Smoking: Smoking permitted throughout.

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